Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Montreal hr637

I wish I could live in Montreal. That’s the thought which frequently enters my mind. Yet I don’t know why it should be Montreal for myself. As a person who was born and grew up in Japan, I had had only a little vague knowledge of it as an Olympic venue of ancient before until I first visited it. I even didn’t choose it as my travel destination for the city itself. I’m an avid Formula One race fan and had been looking for an alternative race to go to see other than the one held in Japan that was too costly and poorly managed. The circuit with the most convenient access from a downtown hotel was located in Montreal, that was the simple reason I chose to go there and a start of my love for the city.
Twenty hours later after I left my apartment in Tokyo, I got off the airport bus in downtown Montreal past midnight. I was headed with my partner for the hotel I had booked that was a 10-minute walk away. My Japanese acquaintance has once told me that he got mugged in downtown Los Angeles and was robbed of his wallet, shoes, and even a tooth capped with gold. I recalled it and thought I was doing the stupidest thing to walk pulling my big suitcase in a strange city, in the witching hour of night. Then I saw someone while I was waiting for the traffic lights at a quiet crossing. A teen-age girl wearing a mini skirt appeared from nowhere and crossed the street humming merrily and dancing ballet. The sight of her gave me a sense that Montreal might be a safe, relaxing and enjoyable city. And it proved true.
I had lived in Southern California for four years before and I imagined that Montreal was quite alike since it was also in North America. But actually, it turned out to be a totally different place. Virtually everything – people’s appearances, values, the way of living and a cityscape – was far from alike. When I lived in California, I believed that life is a competition and that a happy life can’t be attained without success. I had been all worn up with that belief. My work as a singer-songwriter didn’t go well accordingly and I ended up moving back to Japan for a financial difficulty, broken-heartedly. But Montreal’s beautiful cityscape and its fashionable locals who enjoy life not with caring about money but with a laid-back attitude healed me. I fell in love in this city deeply enough to stay for a long period of time repeatedly.

Photo by Ella Wei on Pexels.com

Of course familiar flaws and problems existed since it’s not heaven. I too much often received a wrong change when shopping. One shop clerk surprised me when he gave me a handful of change without counting. He saw my dubious face and added one more handful of coins. I was also surprised that ordinary-looking people begged for small change. A young woman who seemed to be an ordinary house wife asked me to spare change while she was pushing a stroller with a baby in it. Or a bunch of young decent boys asked for change casually while they were having fun talking and laughing on the street. I glared at them for caution when I passed by, and they apologized to me. It seemed like it was their custom or routine to ask for money in passing. I wondered why they would do so in the city that didn’t look jobless nor degenerate. Come to think of it, I had spotted people idling and just sitting on the steps to an apartment in the daytime so many times. Commute traffic jammed at as early as 4 p.m. which looked so odd to a Japanese in whose country the train around midnight is running full with commuters. While I appreciated the city’s peacefulness with no tension of racism or success, its too-easy-going atmosphere sometimes irritated me. But it was probably too much of a luxury to ask for more. Before I was aware, I wished to settle in Montreal and work on my music there. My wish was to be crushed afterwards however, because reality was harsh.
I remember my happy days in Montreal every time I watch Canadian GP on TV. The city’s skyscrapers over the circuit ask me through the TV screen if I can come back someday. I desperately cheer myself up, telling myself that I can, I want to, I’m supposed to. On one Canada Day in the future, while I’m watching the mega-sized fireworks at the head of the Old Montreal pier with my partner, my eyes will be filled with light and shed tears of joy.

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An Earthly Paradise hr596

When I lived in California, the apartment I rented had an outside Jacuzzi. I liked taking it at night, seeing the sky above. Under the palm trees, I watched an airplane’s small dot of light blinking and moving through the stars. It was the moment that I felt like a winner who obtained a life in paradise by getting out of not only Japan but also my family to which I had been a bound successor. Prices in the U.S. were extremely low compared to Japan back then because of the strong yen. It seemed to me that everything was on sale and I literally lived in a bargain country. Sadly, my life in paradise didn’t last long, though. The Japanese economy crashed and yen turned weak. Inflation had edged up in the States as well. Price hikes assaulted me in all directions. I became unable to pay the rent even if I had moved into a cheap motel. I was practically kicked out of the States and the plane brought bitterly-discouraged myself back to Japan where I returned to a life of reality in a teeny-tiny apartment. Time went by, and I had benefited from technological advances like the Internet and computers, and also from the fall of housing value in Japan. Those benefits let me live in a condominium that has a communal spa. I take a Jacuzzi there watching a beautiful view of the mountains with lingering snow out of big windows. One day, I felt so euphoric that I thought this wasn’t real. I thought I may have already died from that northern Japan’s severe earthquake or from the subsequent meltdown of the nuclear plant, and must be in heaven now. That reminded me of the sensation I had felt in a Jacuzzi in California. I had never expected that I would experience an equally enraptured life here in Japan when I parted with it there. If I traveled back in time with a time machine, I could talk to my other self who was in despair on the flight to Japan from the States. I would say to her, “Years from now, you will get another chance to live in paradise!” I would tell her that she wouldn’t give up music and would have completed two songs back in Japan that had quality she had been craved for and entirely satisfied with. How easier the flight would’ve been if I had heard those words there. I was too hopeless to imagine so much as a speck of the possibility. I always find myself foolish in hindsight whenever I look back later. There are tons of things I have to say to my past self beforehand. The question is, what would my future self tell me now if she looked at me taking the Jacuzzi here. Would she say, “Embrace the moment. It’s the pinnacle of your life”? Or would she say, “Prepare yourself. It’s just the beginning”? I desperately hope for the latter…

 

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It Is Laval hr560

On the sixth day of my trip to Montreal, I moved to a different hotel in a Montreal suburb Laval from downtown. The hotel rates there were a little cheaper, and I also wanted to visit Laval that I had never been to even when I lived in Montreal a long time ago. I looked out the window at the lounge in the hotel. A vast 10-lane highway ran straight through a wide stretch of plane land covered with greenery as far as the eye can see, which reminded me of Orlando, Florida. Across the highway from the hotel was a new building of the space camp attraction beside which a tall replica of a rocket stood. Right next to them, there was a movie complex which building had a futuristic, UFO-like shape. Looking at all of them against the background of twilight, I felt as if I had traveled through time to the future or I had actually arrived at Tomorrowland. I thought I should have known and come to Laval sooner. It was kind of an exquisite mix of openness in Anaheim, California and chic in Montreal, which added up to an ideal place for me. I wished I could live here someday. Just before leaving Japan for this trip, I saw the biggest, clearest rainbow I’d ever seen from my apartment window. Since I watched a movie ‘The Muppets’, I’ve always felt like there is a dreamer’s place on the other side of a rainbow as the song in the film says whenever I come across one. And one morning in Laval, a rainbow appeared. I was in the bathroom when my partner shouted, “Here’s a huge, beautiful rainbow!” Although I quickly came out, it had vanished already, and only my partner’s ecstatic face was there. He had taken a photo of it and proudly showed it to me, as if he was the chosen one to have seen it. For some reason, I extremely resented and kept wondering why I was in the bathroom at that moment. I was grumpy all day long, thinking that meant I wasn’t good enough to live in Laval, Laval rejected me, I was disqualified, all of which was merely because of one missed rainbow. I returned to the hotel room exhausted and still sullen early in that evening. I casually stood by the window, and saw what was in front of me. It was a gigantic perfect arch of a rainbow against an orange sky. I felt awed and relieved at the same time. As the way and the look of the rainbow that appeared for the second time in one day were quite mystical, I even thought the rainbow was trying to tell me something. I may have passed through the big rainbow that I had seen in Japan and have reached to the opposite side of it. This place could be that one on the other side of the rainbow. Or, more possibly, three biggest rainbows ever in a few days simply occurred by sheer chance…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.551

When I left Anaheim on my latest trip, I got up 6 a.m., took ‘Uber’ again and then caught a bus to LAX. I know so well that the bus to the airport seldom comes on schedule here, which made me too nervous to have room in my mind that should feel sad to leave California. I took the bus because I had purchased the ticket by a round-trip discount, but I thought I would most likely use ‘Uber’ for my next trip. That thought told me I was determined to come back here. Actually, I was searching for a way to move in and live here somehow throughout the whole bus ride. After I arrived at the airport, I joined a long line for check-in. I heard a conversation between a customer in line and an airline employee. “Excuse me, I need to show this passport of mine for the flight, right?” “Let me see, well, no, yours has expired.” “Whaaaat?” I was envious of those easygoing people who hadn’t cared to see an expiration date on their passport up until they got to the check-in counter for an overseas travel. I started to prepare for this trip well over eight months ago. A couple with a baby was checking in before me. The counter person said to a woman, “You can’t check in as your name on the reservation is different from the one on your passport.” She replied, “That’s OK. I made a reservation by my maiden name, that’s all.” “That’s not OK, you can’t take the flight.” “Whaaaat?” The couple and the airline employee began to make numerous phone calls. At one point, they were required a marriage certificate. At another, the woman resorted to pity for an exception, saying, “We have a baby.” Every try didn’t seem to work though. I was envious of those people who casually made a flight reservation. When I made it online, I checked the spelling of my own name on the screen at least ten times. As too many careless passengers occupied the counter, it took so long to have my turn to check in. I intended to show people how smoothly things could go by careful preparation I had carried out. Then I was told, “Both your flight and the next one on the schedule have been cancelled.” “Whaaaat?” It was a clear fine day without a speck of cloud. I wondered when this airline’s planes flew if they didn’t in such nice weather like this. The good thing was, the flight was to Vancouver and I had purposely moved an international flight to Japan to the next day so that I took it with any delays since I didn’t trust this airline. Two flights were cancelled altogether and the next one to Vancouver was five hours later. The counter person told me that the larger airplane would be used because of the two cancellations and my seat would be in the business class. I was also allowed to use the executive lounge. To me, five-hour waiting would be nothing considering the business class and the lounge. I was even grateful for the cancellations. I was headed for the security gate cheerfully with my head full of the coming goodies, and never prepared for the biggest ordeal of my trip that had awaited me next…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.550

I tried some novelty that people call ‘Uber’ for the first time during my stay in California. I heard Japan also has it in the Tokyo metropolitan area, but it’s unavailable in the remote mountainous town where I live. Although I had some trouble signing up and using its app at first, I was thrilled when I saw a car actually pulled up right in front of me. I felt as if I was in a future world since I got a ride by just tapping a smartphone for a couple of times. There’s no need to call a cab company any more. No need to calculate a tip or pay to a driver either. The car was clean and the driver was courteous. And the fare for this safe, worry-free ride was incredibly low! I wondered what kind of person had devised such a remarkable service like this and admired Americans afresh. In Japan, there are too many government regulations or restrictions or vested interests that prevent new ideas and services from materializing quickly. That makes people in Japan give up easily and reluctant to try something new. They are resigned to living in patience. Compared to them, Americans are far more challenge-oriented, which always impresses me. I have had some unpleasant experiences when I used a conventional cab, but each ride of Uber was pleasant one during this trip. I used it for several times and all the drivers happened to have a positive attitude. One of the drivers immigrated with his family from Nigeria and now lives in Anaheim. He told me he had thrown away everything he achieved back in Nigeria for opportunities and possibilities in U.S. With a twinkle in his eye, he said that people could do anything here as long as they’ve got money and that he is working hard for his children’s college tuition. I gradually understood why I had to travel to U.S. by spending what little money I had and by getting over numerous troubles. Hope still exists here. When I was born in an old city Kyoto, hope had long gone. I left home for the Japanese capital city Tokyo, but it no longer remains there either. But here, I saw hope that makes people go forward. I got back to my hotel feeling it was a right decision to take this trip. I watched a twilight view out of the window. While Japan is densely populated with houses and condominiums closely line back to back, houses here had enough space between them and plenty of greenery with broad roads around. I was imagining how comfortable it would be to live here when a siren of a police car became louder and stopped right beneath the window. The police officers began to stretch yellow tape that was familiar in movies and TV shows. Many more police cars arrived and the road was blocked. Finally, a SWAT team showed up with a big black van. I turned on TV for a local evening news show, but it didn’t mention anything about this, which meant it was too small and usual to be covered. Thinking I might witness something and be murdered for it, or a ricochet might hit me, I drew the curtains and pulled away from the window…

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